Sunday, January 27, 2019

"Box of Bullets"

First of all, before I begin let me say that I will never admit the validity of this short. Mostly to protect the embarrassed. It all started one hot summer morning around 1968 or 1969 I'm not sure which. I was a young little monkey enjoying the summer and all it's adventures when there was a knock on our back door on that morning of great fate. My Mom was in the kitchen and I was watching T.V. in the living room when She said " Monkey, It's your friend Tim " [we'll say his name was Tim.] Well the only Tim I knew was one of my friends older brothers of about two years or so. It couldn't be that Tim, the heavens wouldn't bless me with such a visitor as he. But they did. " Hey Screaming Monkey, wanna do something"? "Boy do I!" I probably replied. Now let me explain, having my friends older brother come to my house to see if I wanted to play would be the equivalent of having George Clooney knock on my door right now to see if I wanted to go get a cup of coffee somewhere. I was star struck! We went out the back door of our"wonder years ranch house"and started kicking around things to do. We could go play in the woods behind my house which was what we usually did to find adventure or we could walk around the back yard until we had a better idea. My backyard was pretty big. It was house level for about thirty feet or so then there was a four or five foot rock wall which led to the higher and larger area of our yard. That upper level probably stretched back about one hundred feet or so to the tree line of the vast woods that lay behind my house. We ended up just walking around kicking things until we found ourselves looking into the 55 gallon drum my Dad used to burn wood or garbage or whatever, in the far back corner of the yard. It was still smoldering from the night before so we quickly put some small pieces of wood in it and before long we had it roaring ! At some point we started wondering what else we could stick in it for fun when Tim said, "I wonder what would happen If we put a bullet in it? "Only one way to find out" I said. [Or words to that effect.] I know where we can find a whole "box of bullets". I ran down to our basement and unlocked my Dads gun case which was pretty easy because he always left the key sticking out of the lock. I grabbed a box of 22 longs and ran out the back door eager to impress my guest. I promptly dropped the entire box in the fire and we ran laughing and giggling all the way to a log on the other side of the yard and dove behind it "combat style"! Did I mention that we were incredibly stupid ? Anyway after a few minutes one of the bullets cooked off. Then another, then another until we figured out that it might be a good idea if we counted them as they went off. This was after maybe twenty or so had already "cooked off" but better late than never, I always say. Finally after being "pinned down" for fifteen minutes or so and not hearing anymore " bangs" Tim thought he would make his assault on the drum. I on the other hand stayed low having just had a vivid image of a bullet piercing my forehead. Tim thought in his twelve year old library of wisdom that if he moved up on the drum sideways he would then become a smaller target for the drum to aim at. Brilliant ! He had closed on the enemy position to a distance of about ten feet when CRACK ! Another one went off. Here is where things get a little foggy, but I remember Tim instantly grabbing his crotch and letting out a yelp ! that could only be described as the sound a wounded coyote would making while falling off a cliff. He pulled his hands away from the "fellas" and they were instantly covered in blood. Neither of us had any doubt that the bullet had blown his privates off. The next thing I remember was running in our back door to show my unsuspecting Mother our handy work. "Tim's been shot" I screamed. She pulled down Tim's pants right there in the kitchen and made her diagnoses. I learned in that instant that my Mom was either incredibly fearless or completely nuts. Later in life I would definitively learn which but that's another story. "It just nicked his testicle!!" she said, grabbing Tim's hand and pulling him out the front door and home to his own mother would no doubt be equally surprised that her son had been wounded that morning. I went straight to my room and enacted the first "self grounding" ever performed in the U.S. to that date. It turns out the bullet went in on one side of his twelve year old "bulge" if you will, then traveled behind the zipper of his jeans nicking said body part, then the bullet made a second exit hole on the other side of his zipper. The bullet then most likely flew over my head missing me by inches. I would see Tim about twenty years later at a party where I asked him if he remembered that fateful day. He gave me a strange look and said "no". Tim never married.

"The Summer of Luv."

When I was 18 years old I was a little odd, shall we say. I played by my own rules. I did things my way. I was a 18 year old bohemian living in a mid 1970's suburb of Cincinnati. At the time of this great adventure, I was living with my mother. During this time in American history things were a little different. At least that's my excuse...I was working at my first place of employment after dropping out of high school the year before. My dad died in 1975 so that left my mother and me. My first place of employment was at U-Haul. My job was putting trailer hitches on peoples cars who wanted to attach a U-Haul trailer and get the hell out of this "wonder years, middle American town" we called Reading, Ohio. On the day in question, I had set up an appointment with the local Chevy dealer to have a much needed exhaust system put on the 1968 Camaro that I was driving back then. The tail pipe and muffler were dragging on the ground behind my Camaro so I had to get it in that day. The service person said on the phone that if I dropped it off around 8:00 a.m. he would give me a loaner to drive to work that day. Simple. After watching my car being driven away from the service desk I asked the service fella about my loaner. Loaner? How old are you? he asked. 18 I replied. He then informed me that a person had to be at least 21 to get a loaner. I did the best 18 year old middle American kid "freak-out" I could muster on such short notice and stormed out into the parking lot of the service department wondering how I was going to get to work. The first thing I saw at that moment of destiny was a brand new 1978 Corvette. Red. The keys were in it. I could see them dangling there in the morning sunlight. Apparently the Corvette had been damaged during its transport to the Chevy dealer. The driver side window had been knocked out. I wouldn't dare believe for a second that I could climb into a red Chevy Corvette and drive it off the lot in the middle of the morning rush hour...but I could climb into the white Chevy Luv pick-up truck sitting innocently behind the Chevy Corvette... The Luv truck had the same problem as the Corvette. Broken driver side window. I nervously climbed into the said truck of Luv, nonchalantly started the engine and drove off the lot. I had to get to work! There were desperate people depending on me to install trailer hitches on their cars so they could get the hell out of this "wonder years, middle American town" we called Reading, Ohio...
For the next three months I drove that little truck everywhere. I figured that the fewer people that knew about the trucks history the better off I'd be. I came up with the following tale. I said that my cousin worked on the railway system and being that he would be working on the "rails " all summer I might as well use his truck. Perfectly simple. Just like me... I even told my girl friend (now my wife) this story. It was going very well up until one late summer evening my friend Brian and I were out driving around enjoying "nature" shall we say. I was turning right onto a neighborhood street at the same time one of Readings finest was pulling up to the stop sign as he was coming out of the same neighborhood street. Our eyes met at that split second of recognition as he pointed his finger directly at me. It was on... I remember telling Brian to "hold on." I floored the little trucks gas pedal to the floor board and made a quick left on the next street as the police officer was making his u-turn in hot pursuit. I made another right turn and told a very confused Brian that "when the truck!" I knew we had only seconds to get out of the truck and run around one of the Cape Cod style homes that lined the street before the cop cleared the corner and saw us. At about 45mph I shoved the automatic floor shifter into park. No brakes at all... Before the truck came to a complete stop I was out the door and sliding across the hood, ala; Starsky and Hutch. I picked the two nearest houses to run between with Brian right behind me. We had done the impossible. We stopped the truck, exited it and made it to cover before the policeman had come around the corner and made visual contact with us. We virtually disappeared... Just when I thought we might make it, a girls voice rang out. "Hi Brian. Hi Charlie". I had picked the one house to run behind that Terri (last name withheld) and her entire family were cooking out in their back yard. Terri had been in our class at school since Kindergarten. "Hi Terri" we said as we hurdled her fathers fence and disappeared from her obviously horrified families view. I almost forgot to mention that I was wearing bib overalls, no shirt, gym shoes and a bright orange U-haul baseball hat. Brian was less conspicuous in his blue jeans, t-shirt and a large white plaster cast encasing his right arm from wrist to elbow... That was the first and last time I ever ran from the police. It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Brian and I found ourselves on the property of the Sacred Heart Catholic School within moments. It was about 2 miles from where we left the Chevy Luv. We then trekked across a corn field and out onto Kemper road. One of us put his thumb out and the very first car stopped and picked us up. The gentlemen took both of us wild eyed teenagers down to Reading Road but he was unfortunately going to turn left back towards Reading so we excused ourselves and started walking north on Reading Road. We had traveled approximately 5 miles within ten minutes! On foot!! We didn't get far down Reading Road before an Evendale police officer drove slowly by us. "Be cool!" is what I'm certain one or both of us said to each other as the cop made a u-turn and pulled in behind us.
I remember exactly what my brother-in-law/attorney said to me on the phone from the Reading police station which is where we ended up after being arrested by the Evendale cop. He said "Charlie, you're going to prison!!!" and I believed him... They released Brian and eventually dropped the charges against him because like I said, he knew nothing about the fact that the Chevy was "stolen" per say... I went to juvenile court a month or so later and told the very nice judge that I had seen the truck parked outside a fictitious girlfriends apartment for three months with the keys in it and that I had given into temptation one night after having a few beers. "After all your honor, the keys where in it!..." The judge bought the story and said if I went and explained to the owner of the Chevy dealership how I had ended up with his truck , all charges would be dropped. I thanked her and headed off to see the dealer. He also bought the story. The truck had been missing for almost three months but I convinced everyone that after I succumbed to temptation one night and was caught driving the Chevy Luv within moments...
The dealer said he understood. He informed me that he was also young at one time in his life and wanted to know if I would be interested in buying another one of his Chevy Luv trucks being that I liked them so much. I declined the offer and left the Chevy dealership no worse for wear but with one hell of a story and a ton of great memories from my "summer of luv."

note: I'm not proud of this story. Those were different times back then and I was a little different myself...Harmless, but different. I realize now just how stupid my actions were and how lucky I was not to have gotten in more trouble than I did. It was my first and last stolen vehicle.

S. Monkey

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Mud Balls"

Standing in our driveway I swung my twelve year old leg over the seat of my baby blue Fuji ten speed. I kicked off with my feet and began my short trip to my friend John's house. With my wide denim bell bottoms draped loosely over my Frye boots, I was styling. Life was good. I pedaled my under appreciated Fuji hard and turned right onto Carol Ann Drive. Ten speed bikes were the bike of choice in the late 70's. I think they might have been about the only bike they made back then, other than a Schwinn Crate or something. Many summer nights were spent sleeping over at someone's house, either inside or out in a tent in a back yard. John had a family tent we would put up a couple times a year. It would sleep about a dozen or so full grown adults and ideally would have taken about that many to put up. John and I would lift and pull that heavy canvas never knowing for sure if we would be successful until it was completely up. We would wait until everyone was asleep then fly down the deserted streets at break neck speeds on our bikes. A lot of times we would end up miles away at the Kenwood Mall at 1:00 in the morning where we would pedal up the five or six floor parking garage [I forget exactly how many floors there were] then we'd fly down side-by-side totally blind to any cars coming up the ramp. Life was good ! To this day, I can ride my bicycle at night and smell the exact same summer air I did back then. I had just crossed Furman Road when I heard the first BOOM! That had to be a cherry bomb! Only cherry bombs were that loud that far away, I thought. Turning left onto John's street I heard the second BOOOMM ! Louder! I was just turning into John's driveway when the next blast hit my ears. BOOOOMMM ! It was coming from John's backyard. I parked my bike and walked through the gate to find John sitting Indian style behind a small carbide cannon. BOOOMM! Carbide cannons obviously used carbide to fire. You would put a couple inch's of water into the bottom of the cannon, then the carbide crystals would drop into the water creating an explosive gas that would ignite when a flint on top created a spark. Like I said.. BOOOMM ! John had a perfect pyramid of little mud balls sitting next to his cannon.  A mud ball shot lazily out of the barrel when it fired. The blast was far disproportionate to the speed of the mud ball it fired. "What the hell are you doing John?" I asked. "bombing the Hefners"... he said.  The Hefners were John's sworn enemy for no apparent reason. Maybe it was because they had a couple boys, older and bigger than John. That was probably it. I wondered back then what the Hefner's thought of this bizarre behavior going on at their neighbors house. " I pictured Mrs. Hefner cooking breakfast in front of their kitchen window when one of their kid's would say "what ya looking at mom?" "Oh.. that crazy boy behind us is shooting little cannon balls at us...that's all... now eat your breakfast" she'd say.  After a couple more shots we figured out that the mud balls were a little too small letting the blast sneak out around them. "Make the balls bigger" I said. "So they barely fit in the barrel". John picked up another mud ball from the pyramid gingerly with two fingers, kinda like a French chef would pick up a piece of fine chocolate for an expensive dessert. He pushed it into the barrel, hit the plunger that released the carbide crystals and struck the striker. Wump ! is all we heard. "What happened"? I asked. I don't know. John reached down to unscrew the carbide releaser, striker thingy still sitting Indian style behind it. When the cap came off a blue, orange flame shot up out of the one inch wide hole completely engulfing his hand and continuing up about six feet into the air. Awesome.. Life was good ! The mud ball kept the blast from escaping out of the barrel, but still did not come out ! It was still stuck ! At some point we ended up on John's front porch trying to use a stick to get the said "ball of mud" out, when an older kid from down the street showed up. "What are you guy's doing"? Tom asked. We told him we were shooting off the cannon but failed to tell him it still had a mud ball stuck in it's barrel. "Can I shoot it"? he asked. "Sure" John said. He told Tom how to put the carbide into it, then when asked how many times he should push the plunger down releasing the carbide, John said, "hit it about ten times". John usually hit it three or four times at the most. As Tom was preparing to hit the striker, John and I exchanged glances... The striker was hit but nothing happened." What's the matter with it"? Tom asked. I don't know, John lied..."Try taking the top off of it". He began doing this with his face directly over the opening. Now, John or I could have said,"stop" or" don't" or something but we said nothing. Tom opened the cap and a blue orange flame shot up hitting him square in the forehead traveling around both sides of his head, meeting again on the back side of his head then traveled another six or eight feet straight up into the summer sky...John and I fell down laughing... I can't breathe, hysterical laughter.  After about twenty seconds of hearing us laugh at him, Tom turned back to face us... his eye brows were gone! Almost gone.. Where they were, there were little flumes of smoke traveling upwards into the air above Tom. John and I were going to die laughing, right there on his front lawn. I could not breathe !! I wasn't exactly laughing anymore, I was just laying on the ground preparing for death to take me. Tom stormed off and eventually we composed ourselves. We took the cannon into John's house and put it back on the shelf in his bedroom from where it came. Mud ball and all. Chapter 2- John had a great idea moments later..."What if we put water in a Clorox bottle then dropped carbide crystal into it, screwed the top back on and lit it with a firecracker fuse. Luckily John had all of these materials. Moments later John and I were standing over top a Clorox bottle with a red firecracker fuse sticking out of it in the middle of John's backyard.  I'll say "we"  but really it was John who put almost the entire tube like container of carbide crystal into the Clorox bottle. He lit the fuse and we stood there over it daring to see who would stand there the longest when I finally said "BOOOOOKK". The phrase "book" was used as a verb and meant to go real fast "back in the day". We ran about twenty feet then did our best Pete Rose head first slide into the grass. Our feet to the blast. When it went off it felt like someone stood over me and hit the bottoms of my feet with two sledge hammers ! One on each foot... then we heard the dirt falling back to earth and hitting the aluminum awning on the back of John's house. Pieces of dirt were everywhere. On his roof, in his drive way, and God only knows where else. The blast was like ten cherry bombs going off. It was mind blowing. As we stood to inspect the small crater it left in John's yard I noticed that my right leg was alot shorter than my left...The two inch heel on my right Frye boot was gone!! We found it about five feet past the spot we were laying and to this day John swears it was blown off by the blast. I'm not so sure it didn't come off while I was running. No one came out to see what happened, no parents, no police, no Hefners.. Nobody. Just another summer day at the Frohlich house... We said are good byes awhile later and I rode my baby blue ten speed back home carrying my Frye boot heel in one hand. I remember my Dad saying he would drop off the boot at the local shoe repair shop the next day. I also remember not getting those boots back from the cobblers for along time. One thing's for sure, that guy would never guess in a million years what caused the heel to fly off that boot. And to this day, as God as my witness, my right leg is one quarter inch shorter than my left...